Gwendolyn VanSant is an experienced organizational change consultant and coach who works at the intersection of diversity leadership, equity and inclusion, and strategic planning. She is the Founding Director of BRIDGE and the Equity and Inclusion Team Lead at Changemaker Strategies (formerly Imagine Philanthropy). She has founded several initiatives based in the principles of equity and justice, the inherent dignity and worth of individuals, and our interconnected web of humanity. She serves as the Vice Chair of the Town of Great Barrington W. E. B. Du Bois Legacy Committee, and she’s on the board of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts and UU Mass Action Network. A skilled community organizer, Gwendolyn is also a well-recognized thought leader on gender equity, racial justice, and reparations.
Gwendolyn offers highly customizable cultural competency, multicultural education, and literacy and proficiency training programs for groups of all ages and professional, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. She works with corporations and financial institutions, secondary and higher education institutions, law enforcement, public health institutions and hospitals, arts organizations, and leadership institutes. Her cultural competency training, strategic work, and capacity building consulting work has been sought out across the country. New programs she’s developed include Workplace Spanish for Law Enforcement, the first Women of Color in the Workplace Retreat at Amherst College for graduating seniors and alumnae, and most recently, a staff and board leadership training program on equity and financial literacy. Gwendolyn also served on the Great Barrington Citizen’s Panel for Police Officer and Sergeant Selection. A certified bilingual interpreter, she also designs education curriculums for workplace language classes.
Gwendolyn is a longtime activist. In 2018, Gwendolyn was selected by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as one of the Commonwealth's “Unsung Heroines” and named a finalist in Executive Leadership in the 2018 Berkshire Nonprofit Awards. In January-February 2018, Gwendolyn co-curated the commissioned Town Of Great Barrington Du Bois 150th Festival in partnership with Randy Weinstein and her BRIDGE team. In spring 2017, Gwendolyn spearheaded the county-wide campaign and coalition "Not in the Berkshires" and helped craft and pass her town’s Trust Policy, a step towards a statewide Safe Community Act. And in 2016, Gwendolyn served as the Founding Director of Equity and Inclusion at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
A frequent speaker and panelist, Gwendolyn spoke most recently at the 38th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of W. E. B. Du Bois at the Schumacher Center for New Economics, PolicyLink’s Equity Summit in Chicago, and the Western Mass Health Equity Summit at UMASS Amherst.
Gwendolyn graduated with a certificate in Positive Psychology from the Wholebeing Institute at Kripalu in 2015 after studying with leading field experts, Dr. Tal Ben Shahar and Dr. Maria Sirois. In 2015/2016 she was recognized as a “Berkshire Trendsetter” finalist by 1Berkshire in the "Entrepreneur/Visionary of the Year" category. This same year, BRIDGE won 1Berkshire's Nonprofit Impact award. In 2016, Berkshire Magazine named Gwendolyn one of the 25 most creative, talented, and influential leaders in the Berkshires. Other honors received include awards from the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce (2012), the Immigrant Community of the Berkshires (2011), and Women of Color Giving Circle (2009). Governor Deval Patrick, who honored Gwendolyn as an African American of Distinction award in 2010, praised her leadership, calling her a “treasure to Berkshire County and this Commonwealth.”
- Leadership Institute for Political & Public Impact (Womens' Fund of Western Massachusetts LIPPI)
- National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI)
- Options Institute: International Training and Learning Center
- People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond (PISAB) Undoing Racism®
- National Area Health Education Center (AHEC)